Oh Jiho was one of the first artists who painted the landscape of Korea in an Impressionist style. He believed that painting was the art of capturing light, and thus the essential art of life itself. He loved to paint bright, plein-air landscapes using oil paints featuring an abundance of light and color. Unlike other Korean artists of the colonial period, Oh chose to emphasize the joy and optimism of life during this dark era.
After studying Western painting at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts from 1926 until 1931, Oh returned to Korea and joined a group of artists who focused on making colorful and cheerful oil paintings of Korean life and landscapes. He felt that the pure, clean air of Korea allowed the light to truly shimmer on the surfaces of objects, revealing their inner beauty.
In this painting, A House Facing South, Oh depicted his own house in Gaeseong, where he lived from 1935 to 1945. The girl in the doorway is his daughter, Geumhi, who seems to be bringing a bowl of food or water to her dog Sapsari, who is napping in the warm sunlight. To capture the clarity and transparency of light, Oh used luminous primary colors, with varying shades of yellow and orange conveying the warm sunlight on the house. Oh’s vibrant and distinctive style is especially evident in the shadow of the large tree, which is painted with countless brushstrokes of blue and purple, rather than black. This lovely scene provides a welcome glimpse of the joy of daily life in Korea, a seeming impossibility in the colonial era.